St. Clair College hosts first in-person open house in three years

For post-secondary programs like Culinary Management at St. Clair College, the need for students to be in a physical lab space — rather than its virtual COVID counterpart — is extremely crucial.

"There's multiple senses that go into the culinary industry. We need to be able to touch, feel, smell," said culinary management instructor Brittany Calsavara.

"All of those senses need to go into proper development of those skills. Over Zoom, we're just not able to give them the accurate feedback that they need."

But for the first time since 2019, St. Clair College has been able to promote the program, along with the entirety of its academic offerings, to high school students face-to-face.

The college hosted an in-person open house Saturday for potential students who wanted to learn more about what St. Clair College has to offer. Due to COVID-19, the open house was forced to go virtual in 2020 and 2021.

Lamothe-Cadillac Secondary School student Leona Nichole John was among the students who visited the college.

She said her goal is to get into the culinary program — and being able to see the kitchen in action with her own eyes is extremely valuable.

"You actually see what they're cooking and how it's done. So you learn little tips and tricks," she said, adding her interest in the program sparked from taking three cooking courses in high school.

"It's really fun. I liked the food I got to make and the environment of everything."

For Joey Wilson, a student at L'Essor Secondary School who is pursuing an engineering program, he said the in-person nature of Saturday's open house was the difference maker in his attendance.

"I probably wouldn't have done the open house on Zoom. It's nice to actually see the buildings and campus and stuff," said Wilson.

Potential students were also invited inside St. Clair College's new e-sports facility.

It's currently under construction — but when it opens, students won't be the only ones who will be allowed to participate in casual gaming sessions.

"It will also be open to the public. So if you have friends that aren't students, they can come in and we'll have a pay-per-hour use rate," said Shaun Byrne, the college's e-sports director.

He added that pricing rates have yet to be finalized but may fall in the range of two or three dollars an hour.

But no matter what type of program a student is considering — whether it be e-sports, engineering, culinary or any other — some students said the in-person nature of Saturday's open house reminded them of how their high school was altered.

"It was very tough and challenging. Your motivation is not really 100 per cent. I didn't really want to do school at that time because of how frustrating it was," said John, referencing the pivot to online learning.

"But I just kept going because I want a good career and something that teaches me a lot in life."

Now, with high school graduates setting their sights on new academic endeavours, John's hope is that virtual learning is left as nothing more than a memory in her high school yearbook.

"Someday, I'm going to get somewhere with my education," John said. "So I'm studying hard."